Sunday, January 19, 2020

I Don't Know

                                                              Image by Robin Higgins

My creativity is lacking this week. I don't know what to write about.

And that got me to thinking about how much I don't know. Have you ever thought about that? While my seventy-seven years of life has taught me many things, there are far more things that I DON'T know!

Usually when I'm thinking of a blog post I search a subject on line or in a book (the kind with paper pages :-) ). But I'm so dull this week that I couldn't even decide on a subject to research. So this is what you get: consider what you don't know as a fact.

Discount the multitude of things you believe but have no facts to back it up. That is still a big number.

I know that gravity exists, but I don't know what it actually is. I know there are sciences that explain it, but I don't know what they have to say. And, frankly, I don't really care. I'm o.k. not knowing.

And I guess that is true of many things that I don't know. Because if I cared to know I could be seeking the answers, and I'm not. At least this week I'm not.

What about you? What do you know that you know because you have facts to back it up? And what do you not care enough about to learn?

Some blog post, right?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Did You Resolve To Expand Your Mental and Emotional Well-being?


                                           Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Our thoughts and our feelings are intertwined. What we think about something determines 
what we feel about that something. Most of the time we aren't at all aware of that inter-

If you are over-reacting emotionally, take a breath and check what you are thinking. 
Then determine if those thoughts are logical. When I was teaching prison inmates to 
take more care of their emotions that get them so upset that they act out and they get 
negative consequences when they act out on those emotions. I would use the example
of two different inmates who receive the same news and how thoughts can get them
out of control.

Inmates A and B come back from visitation after hearing from their spouse or girlfriend
that she is pregnant. Inmate A has been incarcerated for more than a year of his sentence.
Inmate B has only been in prison for three months. Now either inmate's spouse or girl-friend 
could have been sleeping around.  But Inmate A is certain it isn't his baby, whereas Inmate B 
believes his sexual partner has been with no one but him. 

Either inmate could feel betrayed. But inmate B prefers to think she is pregnant with his
baby. And he feels happy, exited, because he's always wanted to be a dad. 

That is an over-simplification, of course. But it shows that we have more control over
our emotions that we realize. The choice to have positive thoughts goes a long way to 
making us feel and behave better. 

I don't suggest that you have no feelings. Far from it. Emotions are important in decision 
making and in relationships. And to block our emotions can cause all sorts of problems. But
if you find yourself getting upset over little things, it might be a good time to consider which
thoughts you are encouraging. Try pulling back and looking at situations from more than one

My grandmother was an expert in this. she could always find something positive in every
situation. She didn't deny the negativity but balanced it with positive thoughts. She was a very
lovely woman  who didn't let life batter her.

When you are exploring your thoughts, take a couple of seconds to ask if your thought
is true/real. This is especially important in relationships.And then ask yourself "how
important is it for me to think this way. What else could it mean."

When my spouse and I were courting, they were always late to things. I believed that reflected
a passive aggressive behavior. And would be on guard or disappointed that I wasn't 
important enough for them to be on time. 

Then we learned about the various personalities. We each had different personalities and
had different perspectives on time. For me, time was a straight line. But their personality
saw time as a rubber band and tried to cram everything into the stretchy band. Once we 
understood that the behavior wasn't about me at all, I felt comfortable talking about it with-
out being angry

Check it out. Go to the mall and sit and people watch. Purposely  look for negative things about 
each person. Their clothes might be wrinkles or colors not go together, or some other thing
you see as a flaw. You'll probably start feeling bad yourself. You might even start thinking 
about all of your own flaws.

Switch to finding something positive about each person. You might even give someone 
a compliment. Smile at people who catch your eye. Pass that positive feeling around. Make
the world a better place by looking for the good in it.

Image by Pixaline from Pixabay 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Did You Resolve to Be More Fit?

                                               Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay 

One of the more common New Year's resolutions is to be more fit physically. Even if you don't formally make those New Year's resolutions, you probably had an idea of what you want to change in 2020. New Year's resolutions help us set forth in the direction of something we want to change. Plotting your course is important, no matter what goals you may have.

So, in order to reach your goal you need to know how to measure it, why you want it, and what you are willing to do to get it. Things like weight goals are easy to measure - you know where you want your weight to be when you reach your goal. Pounds are track-able and measurable. You can set out objectives for a few pounds at a time; breaking down the process into measurable objectives. All you need for that is a scale.

If your goal is to change your weight, either up or down, you need to be clear on why you want it. It only really works to make changes be personal to you. If you are doing it to please someone else, that never works in the long run. Maybe you want to improve your health by losing a certain number of pounds. Or you want to feel better about yourself because your extra pounds feel unattractive. (Be careful of this reason, because if you are doing it to attract someone specifically, you need to realize that you can't control anyone but yourself.) 

Or maybe you want to be more fit, have more stamina or strength. You are just feeling sluggish or you tire too easily. Being more active can help that. But how to measure it?  Can you measure how sedentary you are? Maybe you could begin by getting up from sitting or lying down every so many minutes. You stand up and walk around your desk and sit again. Even that small behavior change can get you started. 

Or you can start walking more, farther. Or you can use the stairs more that use the elevator. You could start by counting your steps with a pedometer. Set measurable objectives so you can mark progress on your way to being more fit.

If you are good at following a diet, pick one you think fits with your lifestyle and track your 
successes. Or maybe you could eliminate one particular food. Have you ever tried an elimination diet? You eliminate grains for one week and notice if you feel better. Or you eliminate simple sugars for a week, or dairy, etc. You might find that you are sensitive to certain foods that make you feel sluggish. Many people are sensitive to dairy and find they have less joint pain without it.

Get to know your body and how it works for or against you. Chose a way to your goal that works for you. It may take a while to learn what your body needs or to what. it responds poorly.

The longest journey begins with the first step, you know. So set your sights on your goal and keep going. You can enlist someone to help you, maybe join a group that wants to change the way you do, or a group that is already doing what you want to do. You don't have to do it alone.

Just start. Do it!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Where Will You Go?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Are you ready for 2020? It will arrive whether you are ready or not. But something to consider is where you want to be by 2021.

Knowing where you want to be, physically, mentally, emotionally, geographically, financially, relationship-wise, will help you choose the path forward. Do you want to be stronger, thinner,  more fit? Then you can make decisions that lead you to that.

Do you want to learn a new skill or subject matter? Make plans for that, take small steps at a time to learn. Education is available for nearly everything. Want to go to school? To take courses on-line? Take workshops on certain subjects. Join a group of people who are taking the same path to learning. Much of the ways to learn something new are low cost or free!

Are your emotions getting in your way of moving forward? Depression or Anxiety can be reduced with counselling and/or medication. Low energy can be physical symptom of both Anxiety and Depression. Extremes of either can respond to medication and get you on an even keel.. 

Is where you live supportive of your well-being, Are you happier in an urban area or a small town area. Or do you just love to travel, but don't for whatever reasons. Changing location can stimulate you to find ways to move you toward more satisfaction.

Is it money that tethers you to where you are? Do you think you can't do anything to change your income? I know it can seem impossible to have more income. But you may find that certain of your choices keep you stuck. Take a good hard look at what you spend money on. There may be some ways to cut back or to make a little more. Even small changes in spending and earning can add up in the long run.

Relationships are complicated, yet they play an important role in our well-being. Are there people in your life that treat you disrespectfully? These are people you need to let go of, unless you confront them and they change that behavior. You deserve to be treated with respect, even kindness. Often our family members are manipulative or abusive. Learn to stand up for yourself. There are thousands of books that help you deal with other people. Or you can see a counselor for help with that. 

So much is within your control, yet we think we are helpless to change our lives. Everything you think, feel, and believe are within your control, No one can make you think, feel, or believe anything. That is your personal power. Yes, we tend to give others that power. But is our choice. 

I think in the next few weeks I'll talk more about how to get to what you want for your life.

For now, take a good look at what you want, and at choices you are currently making that get in the way.

Happy New Year!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

It's Up to You

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

I confess that I hadn't done a blog post for this day until last night. I'd been wondering what to write. I watched an episode of Father Brown on PBS. It was built around a radio show called "It's Up to You". That got me to thinking.

So much of what we experience in our lives is up to us. Maybe not the event itself, but how we feel about it when we experience it, and how we continue to keep it in our memory and recall the feelings when we think about it.

There is a TV add that says "Christmas is what you make it." They were hoping to sell you something that was intended to make your Christmas memorable. But is isn't the thing that matters. It is how you perceive it. 

That is an important message for me. I have trouble with the days leading up to the holiday. I really dislike the rush to get lots done by a certain day/time. I get overwhelmed and exhausted to the point that I'm unwell, and not liking Christmas at all!

And - it is up to Me! I do that to myself! I make decisions to do this and that to get ready for guests and celebrations. I think I should make everything right and good. I should get just the right gift for everyone. I should get the house spotless and festively decorated. I should get cards in the mail soon enough for them to arrive before Christmas. I should fix meals for guests that they will love. And on and on. 

That is called "shoulding on myself." That is my choice. I can't blame anyone but myself. And since I've been disabled it weighs even more heavily, because everything is even harder for me to do. It wears me out sooner. It makes me ill.

Of course, preparation for a holiday isn't the only decision that are up to me [you]. Everything we do is a decision, everything - thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions.. And it is helpful that we acknowledge that. for that is our personal power.

And when we are aware of our personal power we can use it to make our lives better, more honest, more accountable. It can keep us grounded in reality. 

I know most of us think we have no control of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and reactions. But we really do. We can change our thoughts, which determine our feelings. We can change our beliefs when we learn more. And our reactions are a product of all of the above.

When I worked with inmates in the prisons, one of the things I taught was just that, the personal power to experience life as it comes and as we choose it. I gave the example of two inmates who get visits on visiting day from their spouse. Both learn that their spouse is pregnant. One inmate is overjoyed. It's his first child and was excited about becoming a father. The second inmate was stunned and angry. He'd wanted children too. 

What was the difference? The first inmate had only been incarcerated for a couple of months. The second inmate had been incarcerated for more than a year.  There was no way he was the father of the child.

Now the inmates would say that of course the second inmate would be angry. His wife was pregnant by another man. But what if he'd been wanting to be a father so much and loved his wife so much that he was willing to be the father of a child that was the result of a one-night -stand. He loved his wife enough to forgiver her and to celebrate a future with her and the child.

It is up to you what you think, feel, and believe. And it is up to you how you respond.

And it is up to me to slow down and stop worrying about having everything just so.

What about you? What do you need to change in the moment? Are you willing to consider that you have this personal power? Are you willing to confront situations where you might want to change what you think, feel or believe in order to have a better life and a more peaceful holiday? Or any day, for that matter. 

The next time you find yourself getting upset, stressed, anxious, etc., try using your personal power to have a better outcome.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

What Are YOU waiting for?

Have you ever thought about how much of your life is spent waiting?

Waiting: noun; the act of staying in one place while expecting something to occur.

"According to a Timex survey, Americans wait on average of 20 minutes a day for the bus or train, 32 minutes whenever they visit a doctor and 28 minutes waiting in security lines whenever they travel. Americans wait 21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out. 

 Most Americans spend 13 hours annually waiting on hold for customer service, reports Time. The average American commuter spends 38 hours each year waiting in traffic, according to the Atlantic. Big city commuters average more than 50 hours waiting in traffic annually. Americans annually spend 37 billion hours waiting in line, according to the New York Times." []

Wow. That's a lot of time waiting. So, what kind of waiter are you? Do you get anxious and frustrated? Pace? Get angry, even enraged? Do you clench your fists or your jaw? Does your body get tight, tense? 

Lots of us do. And it adds to our stress and leaves us vulnerable to overload with more stimuli.

What do you wait for? Beyond those kinds of waiting noted in the quotation above, what else do you wait for? I was thinking of this as I waited for a phone call I was expecting. I thought of other times I find myself waiting. I wait for doctor feedback from my lab tests. I wait in line shopping. I wait for someone to pull out of a parking space close to the place I'm going. [I often am not up to walking far.]  I wait for water to boil, food to cook, laundry to finish in the washer and dryer. I wait for the postal carrier. 

I wait for ideas to come. All too often I wait to remember the right word. I wait for the office to warm up in the winter. I wait for purchases to be shipped and delivered to my house. I wait for vacation or for my birthday. I wait for family visits. I wait for websites to open, programs to load.

And most of the time I'm a calm waiter. I use wait time to think of solutions to problems, or I list things to do, or I imagine what other people are thinking or doing. I'm a people watcher and waiting is the perfect time for that. 

Often, when I know I might be waiting, I take a book and read while I wait. And I keep recorded books in my car so I can listen when I'm driving and waiting.

I learned long ago that life is too short to make myself stressed out. I know that being frustrated and angry is the result of expectations that things "should" be a certain way, and when they aren't I don't have to stress out about it. I just check my expectations and accept that everything doesn't have to go the way I prefer. I check what values are fueling my expectations and ask myself, "How important is it? Is it worth me being so tense and stressed?" Usually the answer is no.

Expectation does not have to cause problems for me, does not have to harm my health and well-being. There are wants and there are needs. I create stress when I tell myself some thing is a need when in reality it is a want. 

How many of the things you think you need could you live without? Because needs are about survival. Wants are about thriving. Most of us have everything we need and much of what we want. Why stress over thinking we won't survive if we don't have what we want?

I guess at my age, 77 years, I get a better perspective of what one needs to survive. All else is wanting a bit more [or in many cases a lot more].

So as you celebrate the upcoming holidays, I hope you will see the difference. And I hope the New Year brings you more than survival

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Help! I'm Sinking!

I've dealt with depression most of my life. The last few years I've also been dealing with Seasonal Affect Disorder [SAD] as well. So, this time of year I struggle extra hard.

SAD is the response of my brain chemicals to the loss of daylight. So when the weather begins to be gray and cold and the days get shorter, I get more depressed. And I live in Central Ohio, where we have a lot of gray days in winter.

It feels like I'm sinking into depression, which can be kind of scary. Even though I take my medications for clinical depression, the depression creeps up on me. It is almost like drowning.

There are many people who are afflicted with depression, especially this time of year. I'm sharing my story in the hope that you might learn how to help someone you know struggling with it.

Depression doesn't manifest itself the same way for everyone, one reason it is hard to identify. I'll tell you how it manifests with me.

An early sign for me is that I start thinking negatively. Basically I'm a positive person. I can see positives in most any situation. But when I find myself thinking negatively for more than a day, I can usually identify the depression creeping in.

Another sign is a disruption in my sleep pattern over a week's time. I want to sleep a lot or have interrupted sleep at night.

When I'm easily overwhelmed by life in general, I know I'm dealing with depression. Everything feels like it is just too much to deal with. I find myself unable to keep up with things. I have trouble making simple decisions, like what do I want to eat or to wear. I just want to sleep to avoid it.

I don't want to be around people, especially extroverted people. I feel like they are taking energy from me that I don't have to give.

I have a lower tolerance for people or situations that want something from me. Usually, I'm happy helping folks any way I can. Depression takes that away and I feel "used" by people who want something from me.

Basically I am miserable and have no energy to do anything about it on my own. So, what helps?
There are things I can do to bring me up AND I don't seem to have what it takes to do them. Here is how someone can encourage and support me.

Finding someone who cares for you enough to help really makes a difference. But you have to be honest with them and tell them you are depressed and that you need their support to keep you on track for pulling out of the depths.

The very things that make you better are things you don't feel like doing. This is why it is very helpful to have someone to confide in and to keep you accountable.

  1. Exercise 15 or 20 minutes a day that increases your heart rate. This helps get more oxygen to your brain and produces endorphins that raise your mood.
  2. Talk to someone every day. Not necessarily about depression but staying connected to others helps keep you stable.
  3. Spend as much time as possible in daylight, especially sunlight. This provides natural vitamin D. And the sunlight helps raise your mood. This is the core of SAD prevention.
  4. Make a list of three small goals for each day. When you are deeply depressed it is hard to think of what to do. So having it written down makes it easier in the morning to get started. The goals can be as basic as "get out of bed" to "clean the kitchen counter." Keep it simple and doable.
  5. Do something for someone else. When you are doing for others your focus is off of yourself. And doing for others also increases endorphins that raise your mood.
  6. Avoid mood altering drugs, like alcohol and caffeine. They destabilize your mood and can lead to an emotional crash.
Sounds like a lot. But most of them can be combined to do all together. Give your support system permission to ask you about what you've done or remind you to work on the things that help you feel better.

                                                    Image by M W from Pixabay